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A genetic characterization of CITES-listed Iranian tortoises (Testudo graeca) through the sequencing of topotypic samples and a 19th century holotype

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The Testudo graeca complex is a CITES-listed group of taxa (species or subspecies) that is under threat from over-harvesting for the Western pet and Asian food trade. Taxonomically, T. graeca populations are in a state of flux. Middle Eastern T. graeca in particular are very poorly known because of a lack of adequate sampling, especially in Iran. Two recent studies generated mitochondrial sequence data from Iran using non-overlapping mitochondrial (mt) markers from samples from localities with largely non-overlapping geographical distributions. By generating new sequence data from key Iranian specimens, this study allows for a more comprehensive appraisal of mt phylogeography. Using historic DNA methods, we provide mtDNA sequence data from a 19th century holotype (T. zarudnyi Nikolsky, 1896) along with new data from two recently collected topotypes of other putatively valid taxa (T. buxtoni Boulenger, 1921; Testudo perses Perälä, 2002). The new data are used to assess the taxonomic assignments of previously published mtDNA sequences, reinforce the signal of considerable admixture among mt lineages in northwest Iran, establish a reference database for forensic studies of trade specimens and identify areas for future sampling.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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